Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday (Apr 14) urged dozens of heads of state and government gathered for an Islamic summit in Istanbul to end sectarian divisions in the Muslim world and fight terror together.
Turkey is seeking to showcase its influence among the world’s estimated 1.7 billion Muslims, particularly in lands once controlled by the Ottoman Empire, at the two-day summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which it will chair for the next two years.
But the meeting bringing together over 30 leaders has been shadowed by sectarian-tinged conflicts in Syria and Yemen that have pitted Shiite Muslims – led by regional power Iran – against Sunni Muslim powers like Saudi Arabia.
“I believe the greatest challenge we need to surmount is sectarianism. My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is Islam,” Erdogan said in his opening speech.
“We should be uniting. Out of the conflicts, the tyranny, only the Muslims suffer,” he said, adding the summit meeting could be a “turning point” for the whole Islamic world.
Erdogan lashed out at Islamic State (IS) militants who seized swathes of Syria and Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria as two “terrorist organisations that are serving the same evil purpose.”
He said that the OIC had accepted a Turkish proposal to set up a multinational police coordination centre for Islamic states to fight militants, to be based in Istanbul.
“We need to establish an organisation to further strengthen cooperation in the fight against terror,” he said.